In late March, after Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren took to Twitter to bash Donald Trump -- calling the Republican presidential candidate "a loser" whose campaign is marked by "cheap racism" and "flagrant narcissism" -- a reporter asked the real estate mogul to respond.
"Who's that, the Indian?" Trump asked, reports CNN. "You mean the Indian?"
For those unfamiliar with how Warren became a senator, Trump was poking fun at the fact that the lily white Warren called herself a racial minority, checking the box for "Native American" on employment and registration documents when she was a professor at Harvard University.
Harvard was proud of its minority professor, pointing to Warren and others in response to criticism that its faculty wasn't diverse enough. No one challenged Warren on her assertion until the 2012 senate race, when the Boston Herald reported that Warren had been listing herself as Native American for almost a decade.
Warren's senate opponent, Republican Scott Brown, seized on the issue. Follow-up reports revealed Warren couldn't prove her ancestry, and things got ugly when some members of the Cherokee Nation began to protest her candidacy, accusing her of claiming Native American heritage to help her career.
Warren didn't help herself by repeatedly giving evasive answers when journalists pressed her on her ancestry claims, and the controversy "sound[ed] alarm bells for Native journalists" in the words of Native American writer Rob Capriccioso.
The accusations didn't derail Warren's senate run -- Brown was facing an uphill battle in a true blue state, in a bid to capture a senate seat that had been occupied by a Democrat for half a century. Warren's populist rhetoric resonated with Massachusetts voters, and Brown failed to gain the traction he needed to court moderate voters.
Since then, Warren's been a rising star in the Democratic party, earning admiration and praise for her pointed criticism of Wall Street excess and advocacy for the middle class.
Warren's name has been held in such high esteem that she's not only been named as a possible running mate for Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, analysts and political writers like New York magazine's Ed Kilgore have said that when it comes to picking Hillary's running mates, "speculation should begin and end with Elizabeth Warren."
No one who has been paying attention to politics in the past five years would argue with the assessment that Warren is one of the most popular Democrats. But putting Warren on the ticket wouldn't be all rainbows and victories for the Clinton campaign.
To start with, it's not clear Warren would even be interested. Notably, she's the only Democratic senator who hasn't endorsed a candidate in the primary. She's repeatedly rebuffed calls for her to launch her own campaign, saying she's not interested in the White House.
More troubling for the Clinton camp, Warren's rhetoric on Wall Street and American income inequality touches on many of the same points Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont has used to criticize Clinton in his bid for the Democratic nomination.
Campaign finance data from OpenSecrets shows that, throughout her entire political career, Hillary's all-time top donors include firms emblematic of Wall Street greed, excess and rule-bending -- Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley among them. Expand the donor list out to Hillary's campaigns as a New York senator, and that list includes almost all the now-defunct firms that were directly responsible for sinking the American economy and bringing on the Great Recession.
Does Warren, whose political resume is built on championing the middle class, want to join a candidate whose biggest donors included Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns?
Arguably worse, the recently exposed Panama Papers -- a data leak of millions of documents revealing the world's greatest tax cheats -- include the names of people who worked for the Clintons, and who contributed large amounts of money to Clinton campaigns and the Clinton Initiative.
If Warren joins Clinton's ticket, what does that say about her principles? What will her supporters think if, after years of fighting the banks and pushing for regulation, Warren joins forces with the indisputable favorite candidate of big banks?
People can speculate all they want, and that's part of the fun of it -- for political junkies, it's the equivalent of sports nerds discussing trade rumors and free agent signings. At the same time, there are some serious obstacles to a possible Clinton-Warren ticket.
Which brings us back to the Native American controversy. In 2012, in a state where Democrats enjoy enormous advantages, the kerfuffle over Warren's heritage didn't sway the outcome of the senate election.
But in 2016, in a general election, with half the electorate tired of the concept that people can simply claim any identity they please, it could be a serious liability. We're living in a time of boiling tensions over sexual identity and transgender bathroom habits. We're living in a time when people like Rachel Dolezal -- the white NAACP chairwoman who "identifies" as black -- make headlines for posing as members of minority groups, arguably to help further their careers.
In the age of Caitlyn Jenner, of white Black Lives Matter activist Shaun King, of straight white men who "identify" as lesbians, Warren's race-bending might not play so well on a national stage. If the famously cautious Clinton campaign is seriously considering Warren as a vice presidential pick, then it ought to think about the potential distraction of a Trump or a Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas digging up the race-bending controversy and using it as a bludgeon in debates and campaign commercials.
Clinton's too smart to put all her eggs in one basket. She's already trying to break the glass ceiling as the lone female voice in a field dominated by men. If the real goal is helping her win the White House, then her campaign would be better served by a running mate who can deliver votes, not one who brings more identity politics to the ticket.